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Philippines street children thrown into detention centres ahead of papal visit focused on the poor

January 16, 2015 · 

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Philippines street children thrown into detention centres ahead of papal visit focused on the poor
15 January 2015 14:01 by Abigail Frymann Rouch

9Pope Francis said his five-day visit to the Philippines is “all about the poor”, as reports have emerged of street children being thrown in detention centres ahead of his visit.
“The central message of this trip will be the poor,” he told journalists on the papal plane en route from Sri Lanka for the second leg of his Asian tour. “The poor who suffered from Yolanda [2013’s Typhoon Haiyan] and are still suffering the consequences; the poor who have faith and hope.”
“I think of the poor who are exploited, those who suffer many injustices, material, spiritual and existential,” he said.

When he arrived in Manila Francis was greeted by President Benigno Aquino, church bells tolled and young people danced to welcome him.
However today a newspaper exposé revealed that street children as young as five had been locked up in detention centres alongside adult offenders in the Philippines capital ahead his visit.
The MailOnline website reported that hundreds of children had been rounded up from doorways and roadsides by police in recent weeks and held in detention centres where they slept on concrete floors and in some cases, were starved and chained to pillars.

The Irish missionary Fr Shay Cullen, 71, who runs the Preda children’s home in Subic Bay and campaigns against child trafficking and abuse, told the website of his concerns for the detained children.

Pope Francis in Manila”They have no basic rights. There is no education. There is no entertainment. There is no proper human development. There is nowhere to eat and they sleep on a concrete floor. There is no proper judicial process.”
“These kids are totally without protection. They have no legal representation. They are just put in jail and left to fend for themselves.”

He said the detention centres were “a shame on the nation,” and said he hoped Francis would speak up for children’s rights while he is here.

4Rosalinda Orobia, head of Social Welfare Department in Manila’s central Pasay district, confirmed her officials had for weeks been detaining street children in the areas the Pope will visit and had taken in children as young as five.

She told the Manila Standard newspaper the operations were aimed at stopping begging syndicates targeting the Pope. “They [the syndicates] know the Pope cares about poor kids, and they will take advantage of that.”

But the newspaper hit back in an editorial, saying: “We should all be scandalised by the Government’s artificial campaign to keep the streets free of poor children only for the duration of the papal visit.”
Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman on Thursday denied that her agency is rounding up and locking away street children in Metro Manila to prevent them from being seen by Pope Francis.
She said her agency had been rescuing begging street children since 2011, with a view to returning them to their families where possible.

“We’ve been doing this long before the Pope even announced he is coming and it will continue even after the papal visit,” she told the Philippines GMA news website.

Tomorrow Pope Francis is to meet President Benigno Aquino and celebrate Mass in Manila Cathedral. On Friday he will travel to Tacloban, where he will celebrate Mass and have lunch with survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. On Sunday he will meet representatives of various religions, and young people, before celebrating Mass for up to six million people in Manila’s Rizal Park.
Photos: CNS

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